Monday, October 22, 2012

Marathon Man


I was reading some older forum posts the other day that I'd bookmarked for later study. One in particular was a piece on FlopTurnRiver by an MTT pro on how he navigates big field MTTs. A lot of the terms he used in his article sounded to me like the same words runners might use to describe long distance training, including pacing and patience and staying ahead of the pack. Compared to Super Turbos, which I believe are essentially the 100-meter dashes of poker, and STSnG's, which feel more like 1500m or mile-long races, a big field, multi-day, high PF MTT seems akin to a marathon. Or maybe an ultra-marathon….

... which led me to googling marathon running sites to see if there were any real significant similarities. The half dozen web sites I surfed basically all offered the same tips for training and doing well in long-distance races. I've distilled them down to the top six most common words of wisdom I found for someone thinking about running their first marathon:
  1. Train hard, and well in advance of the race;
  2. Document your progress;
  3. Set appropriate goals for the race you want to run, and then focus your training to reach those goals;
  4. Run lots of shorter races and then at least one half-marathon before the big one;
  5. Run the first half by time, the second half by feel; and
  6. Know the course.
Wow. These sound just like words of advice you might give someone (e.g., me) who is planning on running his first WSOP marathon event. Let's look at each a little closer:
  1. Train hard and well in advance of the race. Well, duh. This is exactly what I'm trying to do, starting 9+ months in advance of the WSOP to gear up for it. Further, I'm trying to do this training in a systematic manner, attacking all three major Edges I'm always harping on (prep, technique, emotional control).
  2. Document your progress. For me, this is all about record keeping, of which I'm being fairly meticulous on this WSOP journey, including the weekly installments on how I'm doing right here on this blog every Sunday morning.
  3. Set appropriate goals for the race you want to run, and then focus your training to reach those goals. Do I want to play in the WSOP for just the life experience?  Do I want to money? Go deep? Final table? Take home a bracelet? Of course, the facile answer is to win the whole damn thing, but I think the point here is about setting realistic and attainable goals that have a high probability of actually occuring. This in turn means a specific type of strategy needs to be developed for that goal. If I were a pro MTT player, my goal might be purely to win it all, and this would dictate a very different approach to playing the MTT than someone in it just to money, or someone just playing for the experience. For me, I think the basic goal (besides just the life experience of it) is to make the money. This means surviving 90% of the field. After that, it will all be gravy.
  4. Run lots of shorter races and then at least one half-marathon before the big one. Practice makes perfect and breeds familiarity (read: comfort). I'm setting up a number of tournaments (live and online) in the months leading up to the WSOP, including at least one biggish event, hopefully live.
  5. Run the first half by time, the second half by feel. The analogy here is to play "perfect" ABC poker as I navigate the big "dead money" period of the tournament. Don't gamble. Make big laydowns. Stay out of trouble, and let my edge and patience get me past as much of the hordes as possible. As fish start frying, and my edge disappears, the ratio of better players to worse increases, and the name of the game will be picking more specific spots and opening up my game, relying on "feel" more, plus more aggressive play. Bluffs start showing up in my tool box a lot more at this time, too.
  6. Know the course. This is everything from simply knowing the blind and payout structures, to understanding when breaks occur, studying my opponents early on, keeping track of my M, my opponent's Ms, what their mental states are, etc... 
Everywhere I look, I see similarities between poker and life, and this is just the latest example. Of course I could be taking the analogy too far and reading too much into this one, but I find it fascinating nonetheless that there are such similarities between a WSOP event and, say, the Boston Marathon. It's all about training, pacing, and goals.

Runners at your mark.... get set....
All-in for now...
-Bug

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